Elaine Ruffolo, Renaissance art historian
In fifteenth-century Florence, many people believed themselves to be living in a new age. The term “Renaissance,” already coined by the sixteenth century, describes the “rebirth” from the dark ages of intellectual decline that followed the brilliance of ancient civilization. In Italy, especially, the Renaissance was spurred by a revival of Greek and Roman learning. Works by classical authors, lost to the West for centuries, were rediscovered, and with them a new, humanistic outlook that placed man and human achievement at the center of all things. Humanists in Florence styled their city a “new Athens.” It was a fiercely mercantile state, struggling to remain independent and committed to republican virtues though controlled in practice by the powerful Medici family. No single factor can explain the unrivaled artistic flowering it experienced in the early 1400s, but the contributions of Brunelleschi in architecture, Donatello in sculpture, and Masaccio in painting changed Western art forever.
Working amidst the vibrant creativity of Florence in the 15th century, the sculptor Donatello’s works encompass every emotion from unabashed joy and frivolity through formal grandeur to deeply personal religious conviction. A technical master, he broke new ground in the methods he used and the forms he chose to develop, leaving behind a legacy of works that seem startlingly modern. Art historian Elaine Ruffolo highlights the life and work of this artist who embodied the ideas of the Renaissance in sculpture. Donatello may have been born over 600 years ago, but his powerful sculpture still speaks directly to us today.
$15 fee for guests and subscribers